The Reunification Express
Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi
Why fly when you can travel on hundreds of wheels?! The famous ‘Reunification Express’ runs the entire length of Vietnam’s coast, between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, covering a staggering 1,726 km in between.
Whilst there are in fact several trains running the route these days, the experience is just as magical, with stops en route at the superb beaches of Nha Trang, the charming UNESCO-protected town of Hoi An, and the historic Imperial City of Hue, before arriving in Hanoi.
As with all our holidays, we have created lots of free time for you to enjoy as you please. If you would prefer a more ‘complete’ travel programme, we will be happy to oblige. We can also tailor this holiday to meet your exact needs - your holiday, your way.
arrive Ho Chi Minh City
Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City you'll be met by your guide who will transfer you to your hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta. It was originally Cambodian territory before being conquered by the Vietnamese in the 16th century and named Saigon. The city was then renamed once again, after the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam in 1975, becoming Ho Chi Minh City (named after the North Vietnamese leader).
Today the city centre is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French buildings. However, as the undoubted economic centre of Vietnam, high rise office towers are starting to take their place amongst this wonderful colonial architecture.Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels, City Tour
Make a morning visit to the famous Cu Chi tunnels - an incredible underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters during the long struggle for independence. The tunnels, over 250km in length and up to three levels deep in places, played a huge part in the Viet Cong’s victory over the Americans, allowing them to control a large rural area surrounding Ho Chi Minh City.
Today, some of the remaining tunnels have been opened to tourists, offering a unique insight into what underground life must have been like during the ‘American’ war.
Upon return to Ho Chi Minh take a tour of the city centre. Your guide will be happy to personalise your programme, however we would recommend sites such as the Reunification Palace where the South finally fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1975; Notre Dame Cathedral; the Old Saigon Post Office; Thien Hau Pagoda in the city’s bustling Chinatown and the War Remnants Museum, highlighting the suffering of the Vietnamese people during recent conflicts – you won’t be too surprised to discover it’s not exactly a politically balanced exhibition.
The remainder your day is at leisure. It’s a great city to explore at night, lots of bars and great restaurants...you’ll be spoilt for choice!Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Saigon After Dark Vespa tour
In the early evening set off on an excursion with a difference, riding pillion on a Vespa for an amazing tour cum food experience. You’ll visit five different local cafes, coffee shops and restaurants across the city, sampling some of Saigon's best authentic street food. You’ll also be introduced to Ho Chi Minh’s City’s live music scene at a hidden café and local bar. This tour allows you to the experience the nightlife of Saigon the way locals do.
A taste sensation
Whilst the styles of Vietnamese cuisine vary through the country, drawing on varying regional preferences and ingredients, many of the basic methods of food preparation remain similar. A morning at a cooking school such Ho Chi Minh City's Vietnam Cookery Centre is the perfect way to learn a few techniques in the preparation of some of Vietnam’s best-loved dishes. Your morning will include a visit to the local market, and will culminate with lunch, ‘enjoying’ the fruit of your labours!
Visit the Cao Dai Holy See Temple
At Tay Ninh, approximately 90km north-west of Ho Chi Minh City, sits the huge cathedral-like Holy See Temple, home to the uniquely Vietnamese religion of Cao Daiism. The remarkable temple is wildly, almost garishly decorated with lavish symbols and paintings, and is truly a sight to behold. It’s essential to time your visit to coincide with the daily mid-day mass, a mesmerising and mysterious ceremony of prayer and chanting. Visitors are welcome into the temple, and ceremonies can be witnessed, and photographed, from the raised foyer.
Discover Ho Chi Minh City in its best light
Rise early and drive to Tao Dan Park to join the residents of Vietnam’s largest city taking early morning exercise before their working day. Activities include Tai Chi, badminton, jogging or simply walking and you are more than welcome to participate . After your exercise, an early morning stroll through Ben Thanh Market followed by coffee and Pho will ensure you have started your day in true Vietnamese style! Close
Ho Chi Minh City, SE8 to Nha Trang
Train SE8 - depart:0630 arrive:1328
early morning transfer to Ho Chi Minh City Station to board the 'Reunification Express' for the first leg of this epic journey; it is hard to imagine that there's 1,726km's of track in front of you!
A packed breakfast is provided for your journey, but as with all great rail journeys, a vendor selling cool drinks and snacks will never be far away!
The train follows the coast for much of the journey and passes through a variety of stunning backdrops before arriving at Nha Trang.
Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel.Overnight in Nha Trang.
Your day is at leisure.
Nha Trang is ideal for beach lovers and activity enthusiasts alike with some of the best diving and water sports available in Vietnam.
For those in search of solitude, there are also beaches to the north and south that can easily be reached and offer a slightly more sedate experience.Overnight in Nha Trang.
Nha Trang, SE4 to Danang, Hoi An
Train SE4 - depart:0538 arrive:1430
Early morning transfer to Nha Trang Station to board the SE4 to Danang. The train hugs the coast for much of the journey, passing by virgin beach, alongside jungle and cutting through roughly cut rock faces as it heads north. A packed breakfast and lunch are provided for your journey. Upon arrival at Danang Station you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel in Hoi An.
Once known as Faifo, the UNESCO designated World Heritage town of Hoi An was one of the Orient’s major trading ports in the 16th and 17th centuries. Despite the passing of the years and the ravages of weather and war, the centre of Hoi An remains much the same as it did in its heyday. The town is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any visit to Vietnam with the laid-back atmosphere and the fine colonial architecture lining cobbled streets offering a glimpse of times gone-by.
Explore the former merchants’ homes, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colourful market. Hoi An is one of the best places in Asia to shop for silks, handicrafts, antiques and art. The local tailors are also famous, for their high standards of work and can create anything to order in just 24 hours. A short distance from the town centre is Cua Dai Beach, popular with both locals and visitors for it’s sandy beach, warm sea and seafood stalls. Hoi An is famed throughout Vietnam for its fine cuisine and there are any number of sensational restaurants and cafes to choose from.Overnight in Hoi An.
Your day is at leisure.Overnight in Hoi An.
Your day is at leisure.Overnight in Hoi An.
Hoi An, Hai Van Pass, Hue
Your morning is at leisure in Hoi An.
Afternoon departure for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Your scenic route passes through Danang before climbing over Hai Van Pass (Ocean Cloud Pass) and dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co.
Hue remained Vietnam’s capital until 1945, when Bao Dai, the last of the Nguyen emperors, abdicated. Many of Hue’s attractions are found along the banks of the Perfume River that flows through the centre of town.
After checking in to your hotel, the remainder of your day is at leisure.Overnight in Hue.
Hue, Cycle tour of Imperial Citadel, Mausoleums of Emperors Tu Duc & Khai Dinh
A perfect way to see many of Hue’s highlights without getting caught up with the crowds. Your day begins by saddling up and setting out from your hotel to the area formerly known as the ‘New City’, before crossing the famous Truong Tien Bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel, over to the “Old City”. Visit the heavily bombed remains of the Imperial Citadel, built along the lines of Beijing’s Forbidden City and from where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945.
Continue cycling along the banks of the Perfume River as far as Thien Mu Pagoda, via Kim Long village, where you can stop to visit a very pretty garden house. Once at the pagoda - perhaps Hue’s most famous religious site - explore the gardens and the distinctive seven-storey octagonal tower. In the late morning, return to Hue by car stopping at Dong Ba market if you wish.
After lunch, continue your tour by car, visiting the elaborate mausoleums of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh, two of the eight Nguyen dynasty tombs to be found along the banks of the Perfume River. Considered the most impressive of the bunch, both are extravagant complexes of pavilions, temples, courtyards and lotus-filled lakes.Overnight in Hue.
Hue, Livitrans sleeper train to Hanoi
Train Livitrans - depart:1448 arrive:0402 (+1)
Your morning is at leisure until your transfer to Hue Station for boarding the overnight Livitrans service to Hanoi, on the final leg of your train journey. Throughout the afternoon the scenery will be captivating as your train rolls. A packed dinner is provided for your journey.
As the sun sets, bedding will be provided and your seating converted to a sleeper compartment.Overnight on board.
Hanoi, City Tour
Early morning arrival in Hanoi where you will be met by your guide. Take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake which is a hive of activity at 5am as the locals take exercise and practice Tai Chi on the banks on the lake. An day room is arranged at a local hotel for you to freshen up.
Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, ranks amongst the world's most attractive and interesting cities. It was first the capital of Vietnam in A.D. 1010, and though the nation's capital moved to Hue under the Nguyen dynasty in 1802, the city continued to flourish after the French took control in 1888. In 1954, after the French departed, Hanoi was declared Vietnam's capital once again. The remnants of over 1,000 years of history are still visible here, with that of the past few hundred years wonderfully preserved.After breakfast, enjoy a full day tour of Hanoi. Your guide will be happy to personalise your programme, however we would recommend sites such as Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda and a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake. For many the Temple of Literature is a highlight worth lingering over. Built in 1070, this complex of atmospheric halls, pavilions and courtyards is dedicated to Confucius and scholars. Of special note are the 82 remaining steles of stone shaped like turtles which are elaborately carved with the names of candidates that sat the Royal examinations. A walking tour through the Old Quarter will provide another fascinating insight into the character and history of the city, before moving on to Dong Xuan Market with its bustling stalls and brisk trading of day-to-day local goods.
After lunch, consider visiting the very popular Ethnology Museum or the central Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by American POW's during the war. Alternatively your guide will be happy to discuss alternative places of interest that you may wish to consider.
In the evening we recommend staying in and around the Old Quarter where there is a large selection of excellent restaurants and cafes to choose from. There is also the amazing 'street-food' such as Pho to be found on every corner!Overnight in Hanoi.
Escape the city
Spend a night with a Vietnamese family and experience typical rural village life in Ky Son Village, 65 km from Hanoi. The village has three ancient wooden houses, each refurbished in a traditional style, for visitors to stay in. During your visit you can enjoy a bike ride along surrounding trails, pick herbs and vegetables, shop at the local market and assist with meal preparations. Conversation will be assisted by your guide, ensuring your stay is an enjoyable and enlightening occasion for all.
Witness Hanoi awake
The day starts early in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi, and witnessing the city coming alive at dawn is a highlight for many visitors. Rise early and drive to Ba Ding Square, where the Vietnamese flag is ceremoniously raised each day at 6am, before taking a cyclo ride across the city to the Old Quarter. An early morning walk in the Old Quarter will give you a sense of the spirit of this enigmatic city. Around Hoan Kiem Lake and throughout the city’s parks and public spaces you can witness what seems to be the entire population taking morning exercises such as Tai Chi, badminton, jogging and cycling.
Make a difference
Throughout Vietnam there are a large number of orphanages, often associated with a Pagoda or Catholic Diocese, providing care and happy environments for orphaned and otherwise disadvantaged children. As well as providing a home, these projects aim to provide schooling, life skills, and English classes. Selective Asia can arrange for volunteers to visit orphanages for as little as a few hours, up to a stay of several days. Any time you spend will be invaluable in helping the children in play, developing skills, and ultimately helping them to lead rewarding and fulfilling lives.
Back to basics in Vuon Thi
Just a couple of hours to the south of Hanoi, set amongst dramatic limestone karsts and rice paddies as far as the eye can see, is the ancient village of Vuon Thi. Upon arrival you will meet your hosts, a local family, who will help you participate in their normal daily activities. It’s a very ‘hands on’ day and you will undoubtedly enjoy the lifestyle, hospitality and welcoming attitudes of the local people. In additional to preparing and enjoying lunch with your hosts, you can also join them in the fields to learn the traditional techniques still used in farming and fishing. Close
Your day at leisure until your transfer to Hanoi Airport for your onward flight.
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